Stanley Spencer at Compton Verney

Compton Verney in Warwickshire is really proving a tremendous attraction for anyone interested in 20th C British art.Now there is a fascinating show of Spencer’s landscape art.One never sees these pictures together,although occasionally the odd one passes through the sale rooms.They don’t make such enormous prices as the more “typical” Spencers,such as the ones sold at the sale of Wilfrid Evill’s collection at Sotheby’s recently.And a liking for the religious pictures might mean that one likes these less.But in fact,my view of Spencer is that he is right up there near or alongside Bacon as one of the pre-eminent British artists of the century.Whilst these pictures are,perhaps,more “charming” than the religious ones,they are often freighted with symbolism and meaning.

Spencer was a powerful,visionary thinker/artist.When he painted the new concrete posts in the new back gardens of the little houses disfiguring his beloved Cookham,he seems to have seen the crosses marking the desolation of a First World War cemetry.When he painted in minute detail the growing vegetation climbing up and around a house facade,he was seeing some triumph of the natural world over the mere works of man.So there is nothing merely pretty about these works.They are well worth the trip up the M40.One can even see the newly re-thatched ice house along the drive up to the house.

Now one is looking forwards even more to the big Spencer show in Rotterdam,which starts in September.